Vacancies in the United States Senate sometimes create an opportunity to break a glass ceiling. Many people know that Senator Bob Menendez, for example, became the first Latino United States Senator from New Jersey as the result of a vacancy. Few people, however, know the story of Rebecca Felton, who became the first woman United States Senator in America as a result of a vacancy in the State of Georgia.
Although Rebecca Felton served for less than 24 hours in 1922, she made history. By appointing her, Georgia Governor Thomas W. Hardwick shared a part of that history. To this day, Felton remains the only woman United States Senator from the State of Georgia.
In 1922, Georgia Senator Thomas E. Watson died in office. It was up to Governor Thomas W. Hardwick to fill the vacant seat. Governor Hardwick had alienated women voters by opposing the 19th Amendment and wanted desperately to make amends and restore his electoral appeal to the new women voters. Even though Congress was in recess and not scheduled to reconvene until after a permanent successor was elected, Governor Hardwick seized the opportunity and appointed Felton.